That’s what you get when you portmanteau Hugos and brouhaha. We could also go with tempest in a teacup, which might yield Hucup, or… But I’ll stop there. I think I have made my point.
Here’s the thing. I’m willing to
bet guess (I don’t gamble) that most of the readers of this blog know what the Hugos are. But not all of you, as I know there are artists and people who read this that don’t belong to the world which calls itself fandom. Right now, those people are trying to figure out what I’m talking about. Science Fiction and Fantasy, as literary genres, have awards. Presented at the annual World Con, those awards are called the Hugo and the Campbell. They are connected but not awarded by the same ways. The problem comes in with this: while they are important to our little corner of the world, they are not so much, elsewhere. Most of this blog post is targeted at the very people who will likely not see it, and if they do, they won’t understand it. But I must, for the same reason I bought into and voted for the Hugos this year. I believe it’s a worthy cause.
This year, I paid my money, and I got to nominate works, authors, and editors for the Hugo and Campbell awards. I’m ecstatic that some of my picks made the cut. Not only is Toni Weisskopf a wonderful person, she is a brilliant editor at Baen. Brad Torgerson, a rising star in SF, and of course, Larry Correia, who sparked this whole thing off with his call-out for more people to participate in the process.
That’s how it works, you buy a supporting membership (or full membership, but it’s highly unlikely a WorldCon would be close enough to me for me to attend it) for about $40-50, and then you can nominate and vote for the awards. The Hugo is, in essence, a popularity award. The more people who enjoy your work and know your name, as an author, the more people who will vote to nominate you, and also vote on the final award. There are a whole bunch of people (Okay, given how small this community really is, perhaps 500 people…) who have forgotten this.
Look. The Hugos could have died of obscurity, and not many would have noticed. Which fate would have been an inevitable demise, as all things come to a pass, but sad, nonetheless. The numbers I have seen suggest that the voting pool for the Hugos sank to as low as 500 people in 2005. So when someone brings the award back into the limelight, quadrupling if not more the interest in the award, are you going to moan and complain because they don’t share your politics? Yes, I suppose you are. Because you aren’t interested in marketing, are you?
Larry Correia, who is one of my favorite authors, and also the man most at the center of this controversy, pointed something out in a facebook conversation. “Speaking of people out of fandom not knowing the Hugo. I was able to announce my Hugo nom on panels at ComicCon, and people clapped, but they had no idea what I was talking about. And a single ComicCon panel has about 1/5 the population of the whole WorldCon.”
He’s referring to Salt Lake ComicCon, which had an attendance of over 100,000 people. By contrast, the 2013 WorldCon had an attendance of between 4000 to 6000 people. (Stops, looks at what I just wrote, and blinks slowly. Whoa. Had NO idea the disparity was that large). So here this gentle giant of a man has brought the award from a slow slide into obscurity, to a vaster audience than you could have dreamed possible, and you kick at him for it. For shame.
Look, the Hugo is not important, in the scheme of things. Writing a good story, one that people WANT to read, that is the important part. If you are writing to win an award, you are doing it wrong. If you are writing to ‘educate’ people, go find a textbook publisher (or better yet, please don’t. I’m a student, my kids are students, and we don’t want to read what you are pushing.) If you are writing fiction, heck, yeah, this is a popularity contest. Larry sells more books, therefore he has more fans, so when he pointed out to those fans that ‘hey, this award thing exists, you chould check it out,’ they did so.
So think about it this way. Now Larry’s fans are looking at the other works on the ballot. They are going to read them, too, books and stories they would never have heard of any other way. If the stories are good, they might buy more by that author. It’s called cross promotion, and it’s a marketing thing. You see, contrary to what publishers have fed you, writers are not in competition with one another. No one writer can produce enough to feed a single reader’s appetite for written material in a year. Suddenly, SFF has 100,000 more sets of eyes on it than it had before. But sadly, what those eyes are seeing is the equivalent of a full-fledged temper tantrum. Stop and think, before you blog about how evil this Larry guy is. Why would you repel a fresh influx of readers into a genre? And you are repellant, have no doubt about that.
Frankly, with my schedule, reading all of the Hugo finalists is going to be a challenge. That’s part of the reason I haven’t taken part in the voting prior to this year, because I knew that it is my duty to read and objectively weigh the merits of all the stories presented to me. I’ll have to plan it carefully, but I will do it, because unlike those who are proclaiming they will not vote for certain authors no matter how good their stories are, because they don’t like those authors, I must do my duty. For you, my readers, this may mean some reviews of books that would not ordinarily be on your radar, but I will try to keep it interesting.
Addendum: I really don’t recommend clicking through on these, the language is bad, and the motives are worse, but I know that because this is such a tempest in a teacup, a lot of my readers will have no idea what I am talking about in this blog post. For an idea, here are some selected quotes provided by Jason Cordova (thank you for braving the reading of these, my friend!).
“Worldcon going for inclusiveness this year by inviting Tea Party-supporting authors to put up works, apparently. An interesting approach. Also, we are now denied the spectacle of Jonathan Ross handing an award to the exhumed skeletal remains of Ayn Rand. That would have been amazing.” — Werthead, Illiterate Swine (http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/100675-hugo-thoughts-for-2014-for-books-and-works-in-2013/page-6)
“It’s a hell of a lot better than Parasite. And probably – I’ll take a wild stab in the dark here – whatever the fuck Warbound is, since it appears to have been nominated by the same nutjob end of fandom as the Day short story. It’s a pretty straight face-off between WoT and Ancillary Justice. And whilst Scalzi will likely drump up support for AJ, WoT is simply far better known, far more widely read and even people who aren’t keen may vote for it because of its importance in establishing Tor as a force in SF publishing and other secondary effects (like the impact it had on the market, good and bad).” –Werthead, Illiterate Swine
“I assume the Rand, Day, Correia and presumably Torgersen nominations are all a result of the same group of voters. I hope they enjoy the mind-blowing fact it was never ‘liberal publishing’ that has kept them from awards.” — Seli, Racist
“I expected more British nominees, BTW. But in the short fiction and novel categories there are only 2, unless I am missing someone. *edit* So it seems that some of the nominees got there mostly because Larry Correia and Vox Day asked on their blogs for people to vote for them – see here for details –http://radishreviews…-reaction-post/ . I wondered how a novella by a horror writer I’ve never heard of, published by a published I’ve never head of, got there…This explains it. That’s quite pathetic, really.” — David Selig, Embittered Conformist